Saturday, November 6, 2010

shameless promotion (2.01): week 10

Note: Here is the picks column I write weekly for The Daily Home.
Playoff Time in the SEC

November means lots of things: turkey, for one thing. And Veterans Day, of course, and my mom’s birthday, and our one of our co-workers’ annually scheduled orthopedic surgery, which is always a festive occasion.

For college football fans, November means it’s time to start griping incessantly about the inequities of the Bowl Championship Series, and wonder if chaos will indeed reign in January. The cycle generally works like this, in any given season: first we worry that there are too many unbeatens, then complain that the unbeatens from lesser conferences are being overlooked, and eventually just grouse that the whole system belongs in a garbage can. Sometimes members of Congress say something, and we complain that Congress should have “better things to do” than dabble in college football playoffs (we don’t, but shouldn’t they?).

The good news for fans of playoffs: for the next month, a de facto “playoff” will take place in the Southeastern Conference. Alabama, for example, can still achieve all the goals set out before the season — division champs, SEC champs, national champs — but it’s in tournament posture now: survive and advance, or be eliminated.

Auburn is in much the same position, though the Tigers are in more of a double-elimination mode: they could survive a loss in November and (conceivably) still reach a lofty postseason height.

Other conferences face a similar situation: Oklahoma and Nebraska must survive to advance, while teams like Boise, TCU and Utah can’t afford the slightest slip-up.
Maybe we have a playoff, after all.

This column, incidentally, is rounding into postseason posture itself, after a 5-0 week that even featured a cover by Tennessee (yes, riding the Vols and their ridiculous point spreads finally worked). That brings us to within a game of breaking even, at 25-26-1. If this were a blackjack table, now would be the time to start doubling down.

(Home teams in caps.)

AUBURN (-39.5) over Tennessee-Chattanooga: The only thing that’s been fun about this week’s Cam Newton sideshow: the level of righteous indignation that inevitably came from the Plains. Seriously, Auburn fans reacted like a junior-high parent who’s just been informed their son’s being suspended from school.

My son’s a good boy! All these other kids are the bad kids! You just don’t like him, that’s what’s really going on! You’re out to get him!

The good news for Auburn: even in its sleep, it’s capable of posting 40 points against the Mocs, even if they lay off the gas early to save everybody’s legs for “Amen Corner.”

Florida (-14) over VANDERBILT: Since Georgia isn’t on the board this week, now may be the right time to ask exactly what UGA did in the 1980s, to deserve such cruel treatment from the football gods when it comes to Florida.

Seriously, that game Saturday was downright painful: the Bulldogs outgained Florida, overcame a two-touchdown deficit in the second half, got another Herculean performance from A.J. Green … then lost anyway in the cruelest way possible. To add insult to the whole thing, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is now taking heat for giving the “choke” sign to Florida’s kicker. Good grief.

Arkansas (+4) over SOUTH CAROLINA: The Gamecocks’ entire season rests on next week’s game in Gainesville, regardless of the outcome of this game. And unfortunately, their uninspired performance vs. Tennessee — seriously, Tyler Bray nearly won that game for the Vols — doesn’t bode well for a matchup vs. Ryan Mallett.

Alabama (-6) over LSU: Look, I’ve tried 10 different ways to write this pick up. But it comes down to this: in every conceivable facet of the game — defense, offense, special teams — Alabama is as good or better than LSU, and the coaching difference is overwhelmingly in favor of Alabama.
Only one thing gives me pause, as it should you: the Les Miles factor. Every analysis of this game should end with the phrase, “unless something stupid happens, and something stupid happens from time to time when Les Miles is involved.”

And so I’m picking Alabama. Unless something stupid happens.


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